The Legendary Al Di Meola

Al Di Meola on 9/8/22

The legendary Al Dimeola who I first heard with Weather Report. This was recorded at Butler University in Indianapolis on 9/8/22. The great table player Amit Kavthekar is on the right and drummer Richie Morales on the left. (I wish I had my external Sennheiser mic on my Sony Rx 100 VII and also used a tripod.)

Di Meola attended Berklee College of Music in 1971. At nineteen, he was hired by Chick Corea in the pioneering jazz fusion band Return to Forever with Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. He recorded three albums with Return to Forever, helping the quartet earn its greatest commercial success as all three albums cracked the Top 40 on the U.S. Billboard pop albums chart.  

As Return to Forever was disbanding around 1976, Di Meola began recording solo albums on which he demonstrated a mastery of jazz fusion, flamenco and Mediterranean music. His album Elegant Gypsy (1977) received a gold certification. In 1980, he recorded the acoustic live album, Friday Night in San Francisco with Paco de Lucia and John McLaughlin.

Return to Forever

In the beginning of his career, as evidenced on his first solo album Land of the Midnight Sun (1976 on which Jaco Pastorius and ex-member of Return to Forever collaborated), Di Meola was noted for his technical mastery and extremely fast, complex guitar solos and compositions. But even on his early albums, he had begun to explore Mediterranean cultures and acoustic genres like flamenco. Notable examples are “Mediterranean Sundance” and “Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil” from the Elegant Gypsy album of 1977.  

His early albums were influential among rock and jazz guitarists. Di Meola continued to explore Latin Music within jazz fusion on Casino and Splendid Hotel. He exhibited a more subtle touch on acoustic numbers “Fantasia Suite for Two Guitars” from the Casino album and on the best-selling live album with McLaughlin and de Lucia, Friday Night in San Francisco. The latter album became one of the most popular live albums for acoustic guitar, selling more than two million copies worldwide.

In the mid-1980s, Di Meola began to incorporate the Synclavier guitar synthesizer into his compositions. Except for the occasional electric guitar foray on albums such as 1991’s Kiss My Axe, he spent most of the next two decades exploring acoustic music and world music. He rediscovered his love of the electric guitar in 2006, and the DVD of his concert at the Leverkusen Jazz Festival 2006 is subtitled Return to Electric Guitar. In 2018, Di Meola was awarded an honorary doctorate of music from his alma mater, Berklee College of Music.

Amit Kavthekar

Appearing with Di Meola in above video is famous drummer Richie Morales who has performed and recorded with a wide range of contemporary artists such as The Brecker Brothers, Spyro Gyra, Grover Washington Jr., Michael Franks,   Mike Stern, Saxophonist Bill Evans, Diane Reeves, Stevie Wonder, Carly Simon, George Russell’s Living Time Orchestra, Gato Barbieri, Dave Valentin, Ray Barretto, and Herbie Mann.

Perhaps the most impressive surprise of the show was the Indian tabla player Amit Kavthekar. Born in 1984) the Indian tabla player known as the last ganda-bandhan (ordained disciple) of Utd. Allarakha Khansaheb and a prominent disciple of Utd. Zaki Hussain. Kavthekar is regarded as one of the leading young artists of Indian Classical music and and tabla.

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